II Chronicles 29–31:1. II Kings 18:1–8
Hezekiah’s Superb Rule.

Key Notes: Restoration of Temple and worship. Relying on Egypt. How to get the bird out of the cage.

Hezekiah’s reign was a time of revival. It occurred between the disastrous policies of his father Ahaz and the atrocities of his son Manasseh. It is hard to believe that the difference between father and son could be so great or that anyone could deviate so remarkably from his family. One can only wonder whether the people could make the rapid changes that the regimes dictated. The history suggests a “top-down” revival.

IIChron.29:1–11 Once he wore the crown, Hezekiah  wasted no time. In the first month of his reign, he opened and repaired the door of the temple. He gave the assembled priests and Levites a pep-talk. They must clean up the temple and be about God’s work, undoing the  unfaithfulness of their fathers. God’s punishment had been severe. He intended to make a covenant with the Lord, to turn away His wrath from Judah. You recall that during Ahaz’s reign, Judah had been invaded by the Syrians who took many captives, and also by Israel that intended to enslave large numbers of women and children.

Most of the names mentioned are from the tribe of Levi. Their hereditary duties go back to the time of Israel and the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Kohathites were the priests who carried the articles of tabernacle furniture;  sons of Merari were porters of the tabernacle fence hardware, and singers; sons of Gershon were to carry the fabrics of the tabernacle. Sons of Merari, Gershon and Asaph were recognized as singers. The sons of Jeduthun were musicians. The names of Asaph (of Gershon) and Juduthun (of Merari) are designated in some of the psalms.

29:12–19 In sixteen days, the priests and Levites completed the cleanup of the temple. There was a sense of urgency. During Joash’s regime, the intended repairs of the temple were stalled for 23 years.

29:20–30 Hezekiah assembled the leaders of Jerusalem to make a sin offering for the kingdom and  the assembled people. Then the customary burnt -offering was re-instituted with trumpets, musical instruments, singers and worship. Worship continued until the burnt offering was finished.

29:31–36 The assembled people then brought their thanks offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings and libations. The response was so great that the priests had to be supplemented by Levites to accomplish the rituals.

30:1–12  Then Hezekiah sent messengers throughout Israel [ the parts not yet conquered by Assyria] and Judah, inviting them to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. The message admonished the people to return to the Lord so that His wrath would be averted. Some from the north came, but most scoffed. Judah was unanimous in following Hezekiah.

30:13–22 They celebrated Passover in the second instead of the first month. Hezekiah was not going to wait for another year  to establish the liturgical year’s activities. False altars were destroyed. The celebration could not be done correctly because the Levites were inadequately prepared for the work-load, and many celebrants were ceremonially unclean. Hezekiah prayed for their healing, probably spiritual rather than physical healing.

30;23–27 Nevertheless, it was a time of great joy in worship, so much so that they continued the celebration for an additional seven days. Nothing like it had been seen since the days of Solomon.

31:1- On their way home, the people went through all the cities of Judah destroying idols, high places and symbolic images.

31:2–3  Hezekiah underwrote the expenses for the established burnt offerings--daily, Sabbath, and for new moons and festivals.

31:4–9 He commanded the people of Jerusalem to bring in the tithes for the support of the priests and Levites. Piles of all sorts of materials accumulated for four months.

31:11–21 The tithes were enough to sustain the needs of the priests and Levites. The rest of the contributions were stored in the temple. In order to make sure that distribution of tithes was fair, family records had to be made for those who would deliver and receive the tithe. Some of the priests and Levites had fields far away from Jerusalem and they also received their salaries.

IIK.18:4 Hezekiah’s spiritual reforms included destroying the bronze serpent which Moses had made in the wilderness (Num.21:4–9) hundreds of years before. It had been the means of healing those bitten by vipers, but had become an object of worship in later years. Nehushtan means “bronze thing.”
It is comparable to venerating the Cross, for which it is a symbol. Jn.3:14

32:1 “After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacharib king of Assyria came and encamped against the fortified cities thinking to win them for himself.”

Comment: That is a jarring conclusion to an outstanding work of spiritual leadership by Hezekiah and a revival of the spiritual life of the people. They had reopened the temple. They had revived the ancient  liturgical calendar. Passover had been celebrated on a grand scale. They had worshiped the Lord whole-heartedly. They had purged the land of idols. Why did this disaster come upon them? It is contrary to the repeated message of the I-II Kings that reverberates from Deuteronomy. That is, when Israel obeys the Lord, blessing follows. When Israel goes to idols, disaster is inevitable.

We cannot  underestimate the seriousness of the attack. Sennacharib says he captured 46 fortified cities of Judah. His army now stood at the gates of Jerusalem, demanding surrender.

To understand the situation, we look to the prophet  Isaiah.
On Assyria:
” In that day the Lord will shave with a razor which is hired beyond the River--with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet and it will sweep away the beard also.” (Isa.7:20)
“Because this people have refused the waters of Shiloh that flow gently…the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory…it will overflow and pass one, reaching even to the neck….” (Isa.8:5)
” O my people, who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they smite with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end and my anger will be directed to their destruction.” (Isa.10:24)
“I will break the Assyrian in my land and upon my mountains trample him under foot and his yoke shall depart from them….” (Isa.14:25)

On Egypt.
"Then they shall be dismayed and confounded because of Ethiopia their hope and of Egypt their boast. And the inhabitants of this coast land will say in that day, ‘Behold this is what has happened to those in whom we hoped and to whom we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria! And we, how shall we escape?’” (Isa.20:5)
"Woe to the rebellious children…who set out to go down to Egypt, without  asking for my counsel and take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh…” “…everyone comes to shame through a people that cannot profit them, that bring neither help nor profit but shame and disgrace.” (Isa.30:1–2,5)
"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help…but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” “When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble and he who is helped will fall and they will all perish together.” (Isa.31:1–3)

The message is clear. Assyria is coming. Take it as God's judgment. Do not depend on Egypt. That will only make things worse.

When Sennacharib’s spokesman, the Rabshekah, spoke to Hezekiah’s servants, he said
“On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. “ (IIK.‘:20–21). This is the main evidence that Hezekiah went against the prophet’s instruction.

We do not know Hezekiah’s thinking. Perhaps there were three political factions in Jerusalem: one wishing to placate Assyria; one seeking help from Egypt against Assyria; one counseling nonresistance (Isaiah’s party). All we know is that Judah revoked its covenant with Assyria and attacked Philistia which had been invaded by Assyria. (IIK.18:7,8). This evidently occurred before Assyria assimilated Samaria (IIK.18:9) and ten years before Assyria struck Judah. We do not know when Judah sought help from Egypt.

But we do know that Hezekiah was not relying on the Lord at this critical time. Great godliness and abject human faithlessness are seen in the same person. He loved and worshiped God, and relied on human resources (Egypt) when cornered. It cost him dearly. If he had not gone against Isaiah’s explicit instruction, perhaps the Assyrian blow would have fallen on his son Manasseh, one who richly deserved such trauma.

“With thoughtless and
Impatient  hand
We tangle up
The plans
The Lord hath wrought.

And when we cry
In pain, He saith,
’Be quiet, dear,
While I untie the knot.’”
(The Disciplines of Life. V.R. Edman. World Wide Publications. I948. The Discipline of Decision. p.48.)

Next week we will learn how God untied Hezekiah’s knot and what happened after he got loose.